Monday, August 22, 2011

A Moveable Feast

I just read somewhere that Good Friday is “a moveable feast.”  Hmmm, I said. What does that mean?

Ernest Hemingway wrote a novel called A Moveable Feast, which is a collection of memoirs about his years in Paris. Someone wrote that Paris is “a moveable feast.”  Somehow, though, I don’t think it is a moveable feast in the same sense as Good Friday. Maybe Hemingway moved around Paris feasting on…things.

When I looked it up, Wikipedia said a moveable feast is a holiday whose date varies, depending on different things—as opposed to a “fixed feast” like Christmas, always December 25.  The date for Good Friday, it said, depends on the date of Easter, which is also a moveable feast.  According to,

Easter is considered to be a moveable date because the first council of Nicaea in 325 AD declared it to be the Sunday after the full moon after the vernal equinox. It was then changed by the Gregorian calendar in 1582.

That information was not quite confusing enough for me, so I also considered this mind-boggling erudition, found here:

The tables which appear here and, in more detail, in the Book of Common Prayer can be used to determine the date of Easter. These tables were compiled by the then Astronomer Royal, the Revd James Bradley (1673–1762) for the Calendar Act 1750 (by which the Gregorian Calendar was adopted in Britain), and the effect of them is mathematically identical to the more complicated tables devised in 1582 for Pope Gregory XIII’s reform.

In another sense, a website called “Moveable Feast” is about an organization in Baltimore that delivers healthy meals, groceries, and nutrition counseling to people who suffer from AIDS. There’s a similar organization with this title in Lexington, Kentucky.

Oh, dear. What to do with all that?  The thing is, a moveable feast changes around, whereas a fixed feast does not.  The title has an important ring to it. Of course, we don’t call holidays “feasts” in America these days, although we often do feast on holidays.  I like thinking of Easter and Christmas as feasts of love and sharing. And I like thinking of a group whose purpose is to nourish people with AIDS—a feast of feeding, loving, giving.

The picture comes from Lemuria Books’ website.


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